Plants respond to climate change and elevation temperatures


Published in the international journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences – PNAS the paper entitled Red-listed plants are contracting their elevational range faster than common plants in the European Alps, studies changes in the geographical distribution of alpine plants according to long-term changes in temperatures. Its publication is a collaborative effort led by Lorenzo Marini and Costanza Geppert from the University of Padua Department of Agronomy, Food, Natural Resources, Animals and Environment together with Alessio Bertolli and Filippo Prosser from the Fondazione Museo Civico di Rovereto.

Demonstrating that the alpine flora is undergoing a profound change with evidence found in certain populations of plants subjected to temperatures that are too high for their survival, the publication describes how some plant species migrate to higher altitudes under cooler thermal conditions.

The study monitored not only the presence but also the typology (common native, rare native and alien) of the flora located in the North-Eastern Italian Alps.  Over the last three decades, there has been a shift towards higher altitudes of plant populations. Yet the distribution of rare native species has not expanded upwards in conjunction with climate change. Alien species spread towards higher altitudes, moving with the same speed as global warming while maintaining their presence downstream.

Stating that not only does the rise in temperature upset the alpine flora but that the impact of human activity underlines the concentrated downstream placing greater pressure on the environment. The Alpine landscape has undergone important transformations in recent years.  Urban or agricultural areas have increased downstream while the semi-natural meadows are absent at intermediate altitudes due to increasingly intensive agriculture activities.